Asia has geared up to mark 60 years since Tokyo's surrender ended World War II, with ceremonies for the dead, prisoner amnesties for the living and vitriolic proclamations amid rekindled tensions between Japan and countries it once invaded.
Beijing's state-run media yesterday exhorted Chinese to remember Aug. 15, 1945, with "a fresh wave of patriotism."
The China Youth Daily newspaper carried gruesome front-page pictures of people injured in 2003 by mustard gas, left behind by retreating Japanese soldiers decades earlier.
Meanwhile, a delegation of 200 North Koreans arrived in the South to launch a four-day celebration of Liberation Day, which ended Japan's 35-year colonial rule on the Korean Peninsula.
Russian envoy Konstantin Pulikovsky was set to arrive in the North Korean capital yesterday to hand a congratulatory message from President Vladimir Putin to the North's leader Kim Jong-il, whose father, Kim Il-sung, founded the communist country after World War II.
Japan's Emperor Hirohito ended the war 60 years ago by announcing the surrender in a midday radio broadcast that stunned his subjects, urging them to "pave the way for a grand peace" by "enduring the unendurable."
The capitulation came days after US bombers incinerated Hiroshima and Nagasaki with atomic bombs, killing about 220,000 people.
The anniversary comes at an especially sensitive time, with neighboring nations complaining that Japan has not atoned enough for its aggression in the 1930s and 1940s. Tensions are also running high over Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's repeated visits to the Yasukuni war shrine -- which honors Japan's war dead, including convicted war criminals -- and Tokyo's approval of history textbooks that critics say gloss over the Imperial Army's wartime atrocities.
Concern over North Korea's nuclear weapons program has also stoked regional friction, as have Japan-China disputes over resource-rich islands and gas drilling in a contested area of the East China Sea.
On Friday, Tokyo warned its citizens in Hong Kong and China to be alert for possible anti-Japan rallies.